The “whole gospel” poses tough questions for participants at Lausanne II in Manila.
Fifteen years ago, Billy Graham called Christians together in Lausanne, Switzerland, to hammer out a mandate for world evangelization. The Lausanne Covenant was born, along with what has been called the Lausanne movement, held together by the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (LCWE). Last month, 3,586 participants from 186 countries met in Manila for Lausanne II, an effort to rekindle the flame and gear up for the final years of this century and beyond.
In one sense, the Manila fete was something of a global camp meeting. Inspiration abounded:
• A torch, ignited over a year ago and carried through 50 countries, arrived on opening night at the Philippines International Convention Center to a standing ovation.
• A Chinese pastor recounted how he sang “I Come to the Garden Alone” while cleaning cesspools in a Chinese prison for 18 years.
• More than 60 Soviet believers, who were delayed in Moscow for two days, received a rousing welcome when they were introduced.
But difficult issues faced participants as well. If the first Lausanne pulled evangelicals together for the cause of world evangelization, the second one struggled with the very nature of such a coalition (see “Racing the Calendar,” page 40). Three issues surfaced repeatedly: How will charismatics and noncharismatics work together? To what extent will social ministry characterize evangelical missions? And how will the predominantly middle-aged Western leadership of Lausanne respond to the growing prominence of a young Third World church?
To say the Lausanne movement is more open to charismatics than it was in 1974 is to understate the obvious. At a major plenary session on the Holy Spirit, theologian James I. Packer outlined the Spirit’s role in evangelism, emphasizing the transformed life of the believer as an important sign of the Spirit’s work. Then Los Angeles Pentecostal pastor Jack Hayford issued a plea for all evangelicals to be open to the manifestation of miraculous “signs and wonders.” He concluded his address with an extended exhortation that some felt was an effort to invite a distinctly charismatic experience with the Holy Spirit. (Criticism was officially registered with conference organizers.)
At a press conference, Hayford said he was not trying to force his views on anyone, but that conference officials had asked him to conclude his presentation as he did. He said that since signs and wonders appear to trigger significant church growth, evangelicals should be more open to them. Hayford cited paragraph 14 of the 1974 Lausanne Covenant, which calls Christians to pray so that “all his [God’s] gifts may enrich the body of Christ.”
LCWE chairman Leighton Ford told CHRISTIANITY TODAY that the program committee made a mistake in asking Hayford to conclude as he did. Said Ford, “When I met with Jim [Packer] and Jack [Hayford] the next day, we agreed that it had the appearance of endorsing one person’s position. It might have been better to have a third party close the service.” Ford, however, feels the participants handled the experience well, signaling a new era of cooperation among believers with different concepts of the Holy Spirit.
The Social Gospel Question
Under the theme “Proclaim Christ Until He Comes,” participants were urged to “take the whole gospel to the whole world.” And it was clear from several addresses and workshops that the whole gospel should include greater attention to the physical needs of the lost. “In 1974 [Lausanne I], we almost had to sneak in the message of social ministry,” said urban expert Ray Bakke. “Now, it’s almost all we hear.”
And the Philippines, Asia’s only Christian nation—but also among its poorest—was an appropriate setting for such a message. With poverty-ridden Manila as a backdrop, speakers repeatedly criticized evangelization that focuses only on the soul. Said David Penman, Anglican archbishop of Melbourne, Australia, “The gospel should not only bring hope for the soul, but for the circumstances in which one lives.” Newly appointed LCWE international director Thomas Houston urged missions groups to give priority to the world’s poorest countries. “If we are really serious about world evangelization, we need to find the answers to the questions of compassion and credibility,” said Houston. Credibility is damaged, added South African youth leader Caesar Molebatsi, when the church appears to support oppression. “When oppression has religious roots,” he said, “evangelism is made more difficult.”
Such concerns notwithstanding, some participants felt the Manila Manifesto, a major document affirmed by conference participants, relied too heavily on the language of liberation theology. But Ford said the language was intentional. “This document will be read and studied by many outside the evangelical movement,” he said. “We wanted to demonstrate that we, too, are concerned about oppression and institutional sin, yet always in the context of proclaiming Christ to the lost.” (CT will carry a full report on the Manila Manifesto in the next issue.)
The lifestyle of the believer was also viewed as crucial to effective evangelism. “Much of communist atheism is a reaction to backslidden Christians,” said Yugoslavian church leader Peter Kuzmic, adding that the American televangelist scandals have hurt the work of evangelicals in Eastern Europe. “Charisma without character is catastrophic,” Kuzmic said.
The Old Guard
The opening torch-passing ceremony posed the question of future leadership for the movement. The absence of Lausanne’s founder, Billy Graham (due to exhaustion and the extension of his Mission 89 campaign), and the fact that several of the original leaders have either died or were too ill to attend, made the question even more urgent. But some questioned whether the movement is ready or willing to welcome individuals from the Third World or North American minority groups, and if it is serious about passing the torch to a new generation.
Conference organizers tried to reflect the diversity of the movement in its choice of speakers. Of 47 major addresses, 15 were delivered by Third World church leaders and 6 by women. Most of the music, accompanied by American recording artist Ken Medema, was provided by young Third World musicians, and a host of nationals offered prayers and chaired the daily sessions.
Still, the majority (27 of 43) of the plenary speakers were white Westerners. Absent from the platform were resident Latin Americans and North American blacks. Also, only a handful of the major speakers were under 50 years of age, despite two LCWE consultations in the past two years for the purpose of identifying and encouraging a new generation of worldwide leadership.
Ford acknowledged with regret the appearance of a Western-dominated, over-50 leadership. He said the selection process was impeded by an “overworked staff that was simply unable to follow through on some of these details.”
For ten days (and at a cost of $10.5 million), Manila became a think tank for missions-minded evangelicals. The outcome of 400 workshops, 41 major addresses, and dozens of impromptu discussions may not be easily measured, but congress organizers are pleased and say the work of Lausanne will continue.
“The executive committee met before the congress, and we asked ourselves if there is still a need for LCWE,” Ford said. “We concluded that if we should disband, someone else would have to launch a similar movement. Lausanne is a movement under God that will continue to motivate individuals and groups to proceed with the task of proclaiming the gospel.”
By Lyn Cryderman in Manila.
AD 2000: Racing the Calendar
Outgoing LCWE international director Thomas Wang handed the gavel to his successor, Thomas Houston, but will continue in missions. The man with a vision to reach the world by the end of the century will offer his help to yet another organization.
But the emergence of a new movement—dubbed the “AD 2000 Movement”—has led some to question whether this effort will draw funds and energy away from the Lausanne movement. Although the group’s leaders say they began the movement with the full blessing of Lausanne, LCWE chairman Leighton Ford pointed out that the Singapore consultation that led to the formation of AD 2000 (CT, Feb. 3, 1989, p. 44) was not an LCWE-sponsored event. “We support any effort to reach the world with the gospel, but Lausanne does not endorse particular movements,” Ford said.
The movement, which is led by Luis Bush, president of Partners International, and Wang, who is also president of the newly formed Great Commission Theological Seminary, describes itself in terms of “urgency, intensification, and penetration.” But according to Ford, “If Lausanne does not have a sense of urgency, then there’s no reason for us being here.”
Ford said the uniqueness of Lausanne is its openness to all evangelization movements, including AD 2000. Wang says the uniqueness of AD 2000 is that it will not get bogged down in bureaucracy. “Prophets do not get along well with managers,” Wang said, suggesting the AD 2000 movement will be characterized as more activist than Lausanne. Confusion regarding the relationship between the two groups was dismissed by LCWE executive committee member Rolf Scheffbuch as “a family matter” that will be dealt with by the interested parties. While members of the family are reluctant to criticize one another, it is clear the emergence of another movement has caused some tension.
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